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Relying on a spiritual mentor

17 The Foundation of Buddhist Practice

Part of a series of teachings given during a retreat based on the book The Foundation of Buddhist Practice given at Sravasti Abbey.

  • Conceptual consciousnesses create virtue
  • Dispelling misconception about “guru devotion”
  • Relying on a spiritual mentor as the root of spiritual growth
  • The meaning of “guru,” “lama,” and “spiritual mentor”
  • Translating the traditional student-teacher relationship to the West

The Foundation of Buddhist Practice 17: Relying on a spiritual mentor (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Why is it that conceptual (not nonconceptual) consciousnesses create positive and negative karma? Walk through the reason to better understand why this is.
  2. What is the reason behind using the term “spiritual mentor” instead of “guru?” What does the term “guru” generally evoke in the West that we are to be cautious of?
  3. What are the internal and external conditions for having a meaningful and happy life now and in the future? How does this differ from how society, and even other religions, present the pursuit of a meaningful and happy life?
  4. Why is it important to rely on a qualified spiritual mentor to progress on the path? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages of not doing so?
  5. What is meant when the the Buddha asserts to Ananda that the “entire holy life” is about spiritual companionship? Who is he referring to and why?
  6. Why is it important to check into each person’s qualifications before choosing spiritual mentors? What kinds of qualities are we to look for?
  7. How does the relationship with a spiritual mentor differ from one with a schoolteacher or professor?
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.